Council holds off on off leash dog areas

Campbell River city council has put off developing several off-leash dog areas until next year

City council delayed developing several off-leash dog areas, despite a recommendation from city staff to move forward with the parks this year.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said city hall has received several requests for more off-leash areas as the city’s only dog park, Penfield West, is often overcrowded.

“The public has requested more off-leash parks, parks located closer to their home, parks with access to water, parks with off-leash trails to exercise their dog and parks with open spaces for socializing and field games,” Milnthorp wrote in a report to council.

Mayor Walter Jakeway suggested last year, shortly after Coastal Animal Control took over the city’s animal enforcement contract, that the city look into more off-leash areas following the company’s promise of random weekend and evening patrols.

Coun. Mary Storry agreed and said she would like to see other options, like a wilderness path.

So, city staff came up with a list of six different areas to try and meet those demands over the next two years.

Sequoia Park, a wooded area behind the Museum at Campbell River, and McIvor Lake were suggested for 2014, with parks at Maryland Park, Willow Point Park and Franzen Park in 2015.

Though the first wave of parks have already been budgeted for this year some councillors said at Tuesday’s council meeting that they were concerned about the maintenance costs, which are estimated at $15,500 per year, starting in 2015. “That’s where I’m a little uncomfortable because we’re approving to build these three parks; we’re essentially making a service level change request decision for 2015,” said Coun. Andy Adams who noted that means the new council would be tied up with costs it didn’t approve.

Coun. Claire Moglove agreed.

“I do support the idea of having dog parks but until we know where we stand with our budget situation moving into 2015 I’m not prepared to commit a new council to $15,500,” Moglove said. “It might not seem like a lot but we don’t know where we sit in terms of revenue, in terms of expenses.”

Moglove was also concerned that dog parks, which were rated as a third priority in a public parks survey conducted by the city, were taking priority over the number one and two priorities – development of Robron Park and completion of the Sea Walk/Robert Ostler Park improvements, respectively.

Council in the end chose to defer the issue of developing off-leash dog areas to 2015 budget deliberations so the new council can make the decision.

City staff are looking at designating the portion of Sequoia Park (across from the Museum) from the top of the stairs to the beach as an off-leash area as well as the park behind the Museum and at McIvor Lake’s Doggie Point.

The final three spots – Willow Point Park, Maryland Park and Franzen Park are suggested as a second wave to come in 2015. The cost to convert those three areas is expected to be $107,000, with an additional $21,000 annually for maintenance.

Willow Point Park would need the most work in order to accommodate a dog park, Milnthorp said.

“This proposed off-leash area would be the most expensive to develop,” Milnthorp said.

“It would require extensive ground clearing, addition of ground cover, developing an attractive sound and visual buffer along Alder Street and amenities (including double gates at each of the two entrances).”

City staff’s proposal is to locate the dog area in front of the skate park along Alder Street, which would make it the city’s largest designated off-leash area.

Maryland Park and Franzen Park (located between Franzen Road and Pinecrest Road) would be aimed at residents who live within walking distance of each park.

Milnthorp said the proposed locations are expected to become some of the most popular areas within the city’s parks system.

“Off-leash areas are multigenerational and will attract residents and visitors alike,” Milnthorp said.